Islam in China

ISBN (identifier) Enlarge Hui people

Islam has been practiced in China for about 1,300 years.[1] Muslims are a minority group in China, representing between 0.45% to 2.85% of the total population according to the local government.[2][3] Other independent sources claim between 60–80 million Muslims[4] in China. Though Hui Muslims are the most numerous group,[5] the greatest concentration of Muslims is in Xinjiang, with a significant Uyghur population. Lesser but significant populations reside in the regions of Ningxia, Gansu and Qinghai.[6] Of China's 55 officially recognized minority peoples, ten groups are predominantly Sunni Muslim.[6]


Chinese-style minaret of the Great Mosque of Xi'an, one of China's oldest mosques.

The Silk Road, which was a series of extensive inland trade routes that spread all over the Mediterranean to East Asia, was used since 1000 BC and continued to be used for millennia. During this large period of time, most of the traders were Muslim and moved towards the East. Not only did these traders bring their goods, they also carried with them their culture and beliefs to East Asia.[7] Islam was one of the many religions that gradually began to spread across the Silk Road during the "7th to the 10th centuries through war, trade and diplomatic exchanges."[8]

Tang dynasty

The Huaisheng Mosque's construction is attributed to the Prophet Muhammad's second cousin, Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas.

According to Chinese Muslims' traditional accounts, Islam was first introduced to China in 616–18 AD by the Sahaba (companions) of the Islamic prophet Muhammad: Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas, Sayid, Wahab ibn Abu Kabcha and another Sahaba.[9][10] It is noted in other accounts that Wahab Abu Kabcha reached Canton by sea in 629 CE.[11] The introduction of Islam mainly happened through two routes: From the southeast following an established path to Canton and from the northwest through the Silk Road.[12] Sa`ad ibn Abi Waqqas, along with three Sahabas, namely Suhayla Abuarja, Uwais al-Qarani and Hassan ibn Thabit, returned to China from Arabia in 637 by the Yunan-Manipur-Chittagong route, then reached Arabia by sea.[13] Some sources date the introduction of Islam in China to 650 AD, the third sojourn of Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas,[14] when he was sent as an official envoy to Emperor Gaozong during Caliph Uthman's reign.[15] Emperor Gaozong, the Tang emperor who is said to have received the envoy then ordered the construction of the Memorial mosque in Canton, the first mosque in the country, in memory of Muhammad.[14][16] While modern secular historians tend to say that there is no evidence for Waqqās himself ever coming to China,[16] they do believe that Muslim diplomats and merchants came to Tang China within a few decades from the beginning of the Muslim Era.[16]

Guang Ta minaret, Huaisheng Mosque, Guangzhou, China. According to tradition[whose?], the mosque was founded in 627. The minaret was built in the 10th century.[citation needed] Photograph by Felice Beato, April 1860.

The early Tang dynasty had a cosmopolitan culture, with intensive contacts with Central Asia and significant communities of (originally non-Muslim) Central and Western Asian merchants resident in Chinese cities, which helped the introduction of Islam.[16] The first major Muslim settlements in China consisted of Arab and Persian merchants,[17] with comparatively well-established, even if somewhat segregated, mercantile Muslim communities existing in the port cities of Guangzhou, Quanzhou and Hangzhou on China's southeastern seaboard, as well as in the interior centers such as Chang'an, Kaifeng and Yangzhou during the Tang and especially Song eras.[18] It is recorded in 758, Arab and Persian pirates who probably had their base in a port on the island of Hainan, sacked Guangzhou, causing some of the trade to divert to Northern Vietnam and the Chaozhou area, near the Fujian border. In the year 760 in Yangzhou, rebels killed foreigners, mostly Arab and Persian merchants targeted for their wealth, in the Yangzhou massacre. Similarly, around 879, rebels killed around 120,000–200,000 mostly Arab and Persian foreigners in Guanzhou in the Guangzhou massacre. It is believed that the profile of Muslims as traders led to the government ignoring Muslims in the 845 Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution, even though it virtually extinguished Zoroastrianism and Nestorian Christianity in China.[19][20][21]

In the year 751, the Abbasid empire defeated the Tang Dynasty at the Battle of Talas, marking the end of Tang westward expansion and resulted in Muslim control of Transoxiana for the next 400 years.

Song dynasty

Puhaddin Mausoleum complex in Yangzhou

By the time of the Song dynasty, Muslims had come to play a major role in the import/export industry.[14][18] The office of Director General of Shipping was consistently held by a Muslim during this period.[22] In 1070, the Song emperor Shenzong invited 5,300 Muslim men from Bukhara, to settle in China in order to create a buffer zone between the Chinese and the Liao empire in the northeast. Later on these men were settled between the Sung capital of Kaifeng and Yenching (modern day Beijing).[23] They were led by Prince Amir Sayyid "So-fei-er"[24] (his Chinese name) who was called the "father" of the Muslim community in China. Prior to him Islam was named by the Tang and Song Chinese as Dashi fa ("law of the Arabs").[25] He renamed it to Huihui Jiao ("the Religion of the Huihui").[26]Hagras reported that "In 1080, another group of more than 10,000 Arab men and women are said to have arrived in China on horsebacks to join Sofeier. These people settled in all provinces".[24] Pu Shougeng, a Muslim foreign trader, stands out in his work to help the Yuan conquer Southern China, the last outpost of Song power.In 1276, Song loyalists launched a resistance to Mongol efforts to take over Fuzhou. The Yuanshih (Yuan dynasty official history) records that Pu Shougeng "abandoned the Song cause and rejected the the end of the year, Quanzhou submitted to the Mongols."In abandoning the Song cause, Pu Shougeng mobilized troops from the community of foreign residents,who massacred the Song emperor's relatives and Song loyalists.Pu Shougeng and his troops acted without the help of the Mongol army. Pu Shougeng himself was lavishly rewarded by the Mongols. He was appointed military commissioner for Fujian and Guangdong.

Tombs of Imam Asim and Mazaar of Zafar Sadiq

The tombs of Sa-Ke-Zu and Wu-Ko-Shun at Mount Lingshan, Quanzhou

"On the foothills of Mount Lingshan are the tombs of two of the four companions that Prophet Muhammad sent eastwards to preach Islam. Known as the "Holy Tombs," they house the companions Sa-Ke-Zu and Wu-Ko-Shun—their Chinese names, of course. The other two companions went to Guangzhou and Yangzhou."[27] The Imam Asim, also spelt Hashim, is said to have been one of the first Islamic missionaries in the region of China. He was a man of c.1000 CE in Hotan. The shrine site includes the reputed tomb of the Imam, a mosque, and several related tombs.[28] There is also a mazaar of Imam Zafar Sadiq.[29]

Yuan dynasty

Hamada Hagras in which he recorded "With China unified under Yuan dynasty, traders were free to traverse China freely. The Mongols aware of the impact of trade were keen to improve Chinese infrastructure to ensure the flow of goods. One major project was the repair and inauguration of Chinese Grand Canal that linked Khanbalik (Beijing) in the north with Hangzhou on the coast in the south‐east. Ningbo's location on the central coast and at the end of the Canal was the motive of the mercantile development of the east coast of China. The Grand Canal was an important station helped the spread of Islam in the cities of China's east coast; Muslim merchants travel to the north along the canal, which made the banks of the channel regions become key areas for the spread of Islam eastern China."[30]

During the Mongol-founded Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), large numbers of Muslims settled in China. The Mongols, a minority in China, gave foreign immigrants, such as Christians, Muslims and Jews from West Asia an elevated status over the native Han Chinese as part of their governing strategy, thus giving Muslims a heavy influence. Mongols recruited and forcibly relocated hundreds of thousands of Muslim immigrants from Western and Central Asia to help them administer their rapidly expanding empire.[6] The Mongols used Arab, Persian and Buddhist Uyghur administrators, generically known as semu [色目] ("various eye color")[31] to act as officers of taxation and finance. Muslims headed many corporations in China in the early Yuan period.[32][page needed] Muslim scholars were brought to work on calendar making and astronomy. The architect Yeheidie'erding (Amir al-Din) learned from Han architecture and helped to design the construction of the capital of the Yuan Dynasty, Dadu, otherwise known as Khanbaliq or Khanbaligh, the predecessor of present-day Beijing.[33] The term Hui originated from the Mandarin "Huihui," a term first used in the Yuan dynasty to describe Arab, Persian and Central Asian residents in China.[16] Many of the Muslim traders and soldiers eventually settled down in China and married Chinese wives. This gave rise to the Hui Muslims, meaning Chinese-speaking Muslims.[34]

At the same time the Mongols imported Central Asians to work as administrators in China, the Mongols also sent Han Chinese and Khitans from China to work as administrators over the Muslim population in Bukhara of Central Asia, using foreigners to curtail the power of the local peoples of both lands.[35]

The Yuan dynasty "Han people" classification included Koreans, Bohais, Jurchens and Khitans and they are included in statistics of intermarriage between Semu and "Han people".[36] Semu and Han intermarried with Mongols.[37] The Haluhu (哈剌鲁) Semu married Koreans, Uighurs Tangwu, Mongols and Han during Yuan rule.[38] Tibetan, Qincha, Uighur, Hui Hui and Han intermarried with Korean women during the Yuan dynasty.[39]

Korean women married Indian, Uyghur and Turkic Semu men.[40] This intermarriage of Korean women and Semu men was extensive in China during the Yuan dynasty.[41]

A rich merchant from the Ma'bar Sultanate, Abu Ali (P'aehali) 孛哈里 (or 布哈爾, Buhaer), was associated closely with the Ma'bar royal family. After falling out with them, he moved to Yuan dynasty China and received a Korean woman as his wife and a job from the Mongol Emperor, the woman was formerly 桑哥 Sangha's wife and her father was 蔡仁揆 채송년 Ch'ae In'gyu during the reign of 忠烈 Chungnyeol of Goryeo, recorded in the Dongguk Tonggam, Goryeosa and 留夢炎 Liu Mengyan's 中俺集 Zhong'anji.[42][43]

Genghis Khan and his successors forbade Islamic practices like halal butchering, as well as other restrictions. Muslims had to slaughter sheep in secret.[44] Genghis Khan outright called Muslims and Jews "slaves", and demanded that they follow the Mongol method of eating rather than the halal method. Circumcision was also forbidden. Jews were affected by these laws and forbidden by the Mongols to eat Kosher.[45] Towards the end of the Yuan dynasty, corruption and persecution became so severe that Muslim generals joined the Han Chinese in rebelling against the Mongols. The founder of the Ming dynasty, Hongwu Emperor, led Muslim generals like Lan Yu against the Mongols, whom they defeated in combat. As he made more achievements, Lan Yu became more arrogant, self-indulgent and unbridled. He started abusing his power and status and behaved violently and recklessly, sometimes even showing disrespect towards the emperor. Once, after he seized land from peasants in Dongchang (東昌), an official questioned him on his actions, but Lan Yu drove the official away in anger. In another incident, after Lan Yu returned from a campaign in the north, he arrived at Xifeng Pass (喜峰關), where the guards denied him entry as it was already late at night, but Lan led his men to force his way through. When he was away at war, Lan Yu sometimes also demoted officers at his own will and defied orders, to the extent of going to battle without permission. During his appointment as the Crown Prince's Tutor, Lan Yu was unhappy that his post was lower than the dukes of Song and Ying, so he exclaimed, "Am I not fit to be the Imperial Tutor (太師)?"[3] Some Muslim communities had a name in Chinese which meant "baracks" or "thanks," which many Hui Muslims claim comes from the gratitude which Chinese people have towards them for their role in defeating the Mongols.[46]

Among all the [subject] alien peoples only the Hui-hui say "we do not eat Mongol food". [Cinggis Qa’an replied:] "By the aid of heaven we have pacified you; you are our slaves. Yet you do not eat our food or drink. How can this be right?" He thereupon made them eat. "If you slaughter sheep, you will be considered guilty of a crime." He issued a regulation to that effect ... [In 1279/1280 under Qubilai] all the Muslims say: "if someone else slaughters [the animal] we do not eat". Because the poor people are upset by this, from now on, Musuluman [Muslim] Huihui and Zhuhu [Jewish] Huihui, no matter who kills [the animal] will eat [it] and must cease slaughtering sheep themselves, and cease the rite of circumcision.[47]

The Muslims in the semu class also revolted against the Yuan dynasty in the Ispah Rebellion, but the rebellion was crushed and the Muslims were massacred by the Yuan loyalist commander Chen Youding.

Ming dynasty

Weizhou Grand Mosque, constructed during the Ming dynasty

Both Mongol and Central Asian Semu Muslim women and men of both sexes were required by Ming Code to marry Han Chinese after the first Ming Emperor Hongwu passed the law in Article 122.[48][49][50]

During the following Ming dynasty, Muslims continued to be influential around government circles. Six of Ming dynasty founder Hongwu Emperor's most trusted generals are said to have been Muslim, including Lan Yu who, in 1388, led a strong imperial Ming army out of the Great Wall and won a decisive victory over the Mongols in Mongolia, effectively ending the Mongol dream to re-conquer China. During the war fighting the Mongols, among the Ming Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang's armies was the Hui Muslim Feng Sheng.[51] Zhu Yuanzhang also wrote a praise of Islam, The Hundred-word Eulogy. It was recorded that "His Majesty ordered to have mosques built in Xijing and Nanjing [the capital cities], and in southern Yunnan, Fujian and Guangdong. His Majesty also personally wrote baizizan [a eulogy] in praise of the Prophet's virtues."[52] Additionally, the Yongle Emperor hired Zheng He, perhaps the most famous Chinese of Muslim birth although at least in later life not a Muslim himself, to lead seven expeditions to the Indian Ocean from 1405 and 1433. However, during the Ming Dynasty, new immigration to China from Muslim countries was restricted in an increasingly isolationist nation. The Muslims in China who were descended from earlier immigration began to assimilate by speaking Chinese and by adopting Chinese names and culture. Mosque architecture began to follow traditional Chinese architecture. This era, sometimes considered the Golden Age of Islam in China,[53] also saw Nanjing become an important center of Islamic study.[54] Korean (Koryŏ) women's beauty was highly commended and viewed by the Ming Zhengde Emperor's Muslim advisor.[55]

Around 1376 the 30-year-old Chinese merchant Lin Nu visited Ormuz in Persia, converted to Islam and married a Semu girl (“娶色目女”) (either a Persian or an Arab girl) and brought her back to Quanzhou in Fujian.[56]

Giraffe brought to China, by Zheng He's Treasure Fleet.
Zheng He's 7th voyage

Muslims in Ming dynasty Beijing were given relative freedom by the Chinese, with no restrictions placed on their religious practices or freedom of worship and being normal citizens in Beijing. In contrast to the freedom granted to Muslims, followers of Tibetan Buddhism and Catholicism suffered from restrictions and censure in Beijing.[57]

The Ming policy towards the Islamic religion was tolerant, while their racial policy towards ethnic minorities was of integration through forced marriage. Muslims were allowed to practice Islam, but if they were members of other ethnic groups they were required by law to intermarry, so Hui had to marry Han since they were different ethnic groups, with the Han often converting to Islam.

Integration was mandated through intermarriage by Ming law, ethnic minorities had to marry people of other ethnic groups. The Chinese during the Ming dynasty also tried to force foreigners like the Hui into marrying Chinese women.[58] Marriage between upper class Han Chinese and Hui Muslims was low, since upper class Han Chinese men would both refuse to marry Muslim women, and forbid their daughters from marrying Muslim men, since they did not want to convert due to their upper class status. Only low and mean status Han Chinese men would convert if they wanted to marry a Hui woman. Ming law allowed Han Chinese men and women to not have to marry Hui, and only marry each other, while Hui men and women were required to marry a spouse not of their race.[59][60][61]

The Hongwu Emperor decreed the building of multiple mosques throughout China in many locations. A Nanjing mosque was built by the Xuande Emperor.[62] Weizhou Grand Mosque, considered as one of the most beautiful, was constructed during the Ming dynasty.[63][64][65][66]

An anti pig slaughter edict led to speculation that the Zhengde Emperor adopted Islam due to his use of Muslim eunuchs who commissioned the production of porcelain with Persian and Arabic inscriptions in white and blue color.[67] Muslim eunuchs contributed money in 1496 to repairing Niujie Mosque. Central Asian women were provided to the Zhengde Emperor by a Muslim guard and Sayyid Hussein from Hami.[68] The guard was Yu Yung and the women were Uighur.[69] It is unknown who really was behind the anti-pig slaughter edict.[70] The speculation of him becoming a Muslim is remembered alongside his excessive and debauched behavior along with his concubines of foreign origin.[71][72] Muslim Central Asian girls were favored by Zhengde like how Korean girls were favored by Xuande.[73] A Uighur concubine was kept by Zhengde.[74] Foreign origin Uighur and Mongol women were favored by the Zhengde emperor.[75] Tatar (Mongol) and Central Asian women were bedded by Zhengde.[76] Zhengde received Central Asian Muslim Semu women from his Muslim guard Yu Yong, and Ni'ergan was the name of one of his Muslim concubines.[77][78]

When the Qing dynasty invaded the Ming dynasty in 1644, Muslim Ming loyalists led by Muslim leaders Milayin, Ding Guodong and Ma Shouying led a revolt in 1646 against the Qing during the Milayin rebellion in order to drive the Qing out and restore the Ming Prince of Yanchang Zhu Shichuan to the throne as the emperor. The Muslim Ming loyalists were crushed by the Qing with 100,000 of them, including Milayin and Ding Guodong killed.

Qing dynasty

Depiction of a Central Asian Muslim from Altishahr, during the Qing dynasty
Chinese Muslims during the 1800s by Julien-Léopold Boilly

The Qing dynasty (1644–1911) witnessed multiple revolts. The Qing rulers belonged to the Manchu, a minority in China.

When the Qing dynasty replaced the Ming dynasty starting in 1644, Muslim Ming loyalists in Gansu led by Muslim leaders Milayin[79] and Ding Guodong led a revolt in 1646 against the Qing during the Milayin rebellion in order to drive the Qing out and restore the Ming Prince of Yanchang Zhu Shichuan to the throne as the emperor.[80] The Muslim Ming loyalists were supported by Hami's Sultan Sa'id Baba and his son Prince Turumtay.[81][82][83] The Muslim Ming loyalists were joined by Tibetans and Han Chinese in the revolt.[84] After fierce fighting, and negotiations, a peace agreement was agreed on in 1649, and Milayan and Ding nominally pledged allegiance to the Qing and were given ranks as members of the Qing military.[85] When other Ming loyalists in southern China made a resurgence and the Qing were forced to withdraw their forces from Gansu to fight them, Milayan and Ding once again took up arms and rebelled against the Qing.[86] The Muslim Ming loyalists were then crushed by the Qing with 100,000 of them, including Milayin, Ding Guodong, and Turumtay killed in battle.

The Confucian Hui Muslim scholar Ma Zhu (1640-1710) served with the Southern Ming loyalists against the Qing.[87] Zhu Yu'ai, the Ming Prince Gui was accompanied by Hui refugees when he fled from Huguang to the Burmese border in Yunnan and as a mark of their defiance against the Qing and loyalty to the Ming, they changed their surname to Ming.[88]

In Guangzhou, the national monuments known as "The Muslim's Loyal Trio" are the tombs of Ming loyalist Muslims who were martyred while fighting in battle against the Qing in the Manchu conquest of China in Guangzhou.[89] The Ming Muslim loyalists were called "jiaomen sanzhong "Three defenders of the faith".[88]

In the Jahriyya revolt sectarian violence between two suborders of the Naqshbandi Sufis, the Jahriyya Sufi Muslims and their rivals, the Khafiyya Sufi Muslims, led to a Jahriyya Sufi Muslim rebellion which the Qing dynasty in China crushed with the help of the Khafiyya Sufi Muslims.[90]

The Ush rebellion in 1765 by Uyghurs against the Manchus occurred after Uyghur women were gang raped by the servants and son of Manchu official Su-cheng.[91][92][93] It was said that Ush Muslims had long wanted to sleep on [Sucheng and son's] hides and eat their flesh. because of the rape of Uyghur Muslim women for months by the Manchu official Sucheng and his son.[94] The Manchu Emperor ordered that the Uyghur rebel town be massacred, the Qing forces enslaved all the Uyghur children and women and slaughtered the Uyghur men. [95] Manchu soldiers and Manchu officials regularly having sex with or raping Uyghur women caused massive hatred and anger by Uyghur Muslims to Manchu rule. The invasion by Jahangir Khoja was preceded by another Manchu official, Binjing who raped a Muslim daughter of the Kokan aqsaqal from 1818–1820. The Qing sought to cover up the rape of Uyghur women by Manchus to prevent anger against their rule from spreading among the Uyghurs.[96]

The Manchu official Shuxing'a started an anti-Muslim massacre which led to the Panthay Rebellion. Shuxing'a developed a deep hatred of Muslims after an incident where he was stripped naked and nearly lynched by a mob of Muslims. He ordered several Muslim rebels to be slow sliced to death.[97][98]

Capture of Dali, the capital of the Pingnan Sultanate in Yunnan, 1873

The Muslim revolt in the northwest occurred due to violent and bloody infighting between Muslim groups, the Gedimu, Khafiya and Jahriyya. The rebellion in Yunnan occurred because of repression by Qing officials, resulting in five bloody Hui rebellions, most notably the Panthay Rebellion, which occurred in Yunnan province from 1855 to 1873 and the Dungan revolt, which occurred mostly in Xinjiang, Shensi and Gansu, from 1862 to 1877. The Manchu government ordered the execution of all rebels, killing a million people in the Panthay rebellion,[99][page needed] several million in the Dungan revolt.[99] The Hui Muslim population of Beijing was unaffected by the Muslim rebels during the Dungan revolt.[100]

Elisabeth Allès wrote that the relationship between Hui Muslim and Han peoples continued normally in the Henan area, with no ramifications or consequences from the Muslim rebellions of other areas. Allès wrote "The major Muslim revolts in the middle of the nineteenth century which involved the Hui in Shaanxi, Gansu and Yunnan, as well as the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, do not seem to have had any direct effect on this region of the central plain."[101]

However, many Muslims like Ma Zhan'ao, Ma Anliang, Dong Fuxiang, Ma Qianling and Ma Julung defected to the Qing dynasty side and helped the Qing general Zuo Zongtang exterminate the Muslim rebels. These Muslim generals belonged to the Khafiya sect, and they helped Qing massacre Jahariyya rebels. General Zuo moved the Han around Hezhou out of the area and relocated them as a reward for the Muslims there helping Qing kill other Muslim rebels.

In 1895, another Dungan Revolt broke out, and loyalist Muslims like Dong Fuxiang, Ma Anliang, Ma Guoliang, Ma Fulu and Ma Fuxiang suppressed and massacred the rebel Muslims led by Ma Dahan, Ma Yonglin and Ma Wanfu. A Muslim army called the Kansu Braves led by General Dong Fuxiang fought for the Qing dynasty against the foreigners during the Boxer Rebellion. They included well known generals like Ma Anliang, Ma Fulu and Ma Fuxiang.

In Yunnan, the Qing armies exterminated only the Muslims who had rebelled and spared Muslims who took no part in the uprising.[102]

Uyghurs in Turfan and Hami and their leaders like Emin Khoja allied with the Qing against Uyghurs in Altishahr. During the Qing dynasty, China enfeoffed (granted freehold property in exchange for pledged service) the rulers of Turpan, in eastern present-day Xinjiang and Hami (Kumul) as autonomous princes, while the rest of the Uyghurs in Altishahr (the Tarim Basin) were ruled by Begs.[103]:31 Uyghurs from Turpan and Hami were appointed by China as officials to rule over Uyghurs in the Tarim Basin.

In addition to sending Han exiles convicted of crimes to Xinjiang to be slaves of Banner garrisons there, the Qing also practiced reverse exile, exiling Inner Asian (Mongol, Russian and Muslim criminals from Mongolia and Inner Asia) to China proper where they would serve as slaves in Han Banner garrisons in Guangzhou. Russian, Oirats and Muslims (Oros. Ulet. Hoise jergi weilengge niyalma) such as Yakov and Dmitri were exiled to the Han banner garrison in Guangzhou.[104] In the 1780s after the Muslim rebellion in Gansu started by Zhang Wenqing 張文慶 was defeated, Muslims like Ma Jinlu 馬進祿 were exiled to the Han Banner garrison in Guangzhou to become slaves to Han Banner officers.[105] The Qing code regulating Mongols in Mongolia sentenced Mongol criminals to exile and to become slaves to Han bannermen in Han Banner garrisons in China proper.[106]

Republic of China

1939, Northwest China, Chinese Muslim fighters gather to fight against the Japanese[107][108]
Dead bodies of the Chinese Hui Muslim Ha family who were slaughtered and raped by the Japanese in Nanjing

The Hui Muslim community was divided in its support for the 1911 Xinhai Revolution. The Hui Muslims of Shaanxi supported the revolutionaries and the Hui Muslims of Gansu supported the Qing. The native Hui Muslims (Mohammedans) of Xi'an (Shaanxi Province) joined the Han Chinese revolutionaries in slaughtering the entire 20,000 Manchu population of Xi'an.[109][110][111] The native Hui Muslims of Gansu Province led by general Ma Anliang sided with the Qing and prepard to attack the anti-Qing revolutionaries of Xi'an City. Only some wealthy Manchus who were ransomed and Manchu females survived. Wealthy Han Chinese seized Manchu girls to become their slaves[112] and poor Han Chinese troops seized young Manchu women to be their wives.[113] Young pretty Manchu girls were also seized by Hui Muslims of Xi'an during the massacre and brought up as Muslims.[114]

After the fall of the Qing Dynasty, Sun Yat-sen, who established the Republic of China, immediately proclaimed that the country belonged equally to the Han, Man (Manchu), Meng (Mongol), Hui (Muslim),[n 1] Tsang (Tibetan) and Miao peoples.

During the rule of the Kuomintang party, the Kuomintang appointed the Muslim warlords of the family known as the Ma clique as the Military Governors of the provinces of Qinghai, Gansu and Ningxia. Bai Chongxi was a Muslim General and Defence Minister of China during this time.

During the Second Sino-Japanese war, the Japanese destroyed 220 mosques and killed countless Hui by April 1941.[115] The Hui Muslim county of Dachang was subjected to slaughter by the Japanese.[51] During the Rape of Nanking the Mosques in Nanjing were flowing with dead bodies after the Japanese slaughters. Japanese smeared Hui Mosques with pork fat, forcing Hui girls to serve as sex slaves and destroyed the cemeteries of the Hui.[116] Many Hui, Turkic Salar, Dongxiang and Bonan Muslims fought in the war against Japan.

In 1937, during the Battle of Beiping–Tianjin, the Chinese government received a telegram from Muslim General Ma Bufang of the Ma clique that he was prepared to bring the fight to the Japanese.[117] Immediately after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, Ma Bufang arranged for a cavalry division under the Muslim General Ma Biao to be sent east to battle the Japanese.[118] Ethnic Turkic Salar Muslims made up the majority of the first cavalry division which was sent by Ma Bufang.[119]

In the Kuomintang Islamic insurgency, Muslim Kuomintang National Revolutionary Army forces in Northwest China, in Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia, Xinjiang, as well as Yunnan, continued an unsuccessful insurgency against the communists from 1950 to 1958, after the general civil war was over.

People's Republic of China

An ethnic Hui family celebrating Eid ul-Fitr in Ningxia

During the Cultural Revolution, mosques along with other religious buildings were often defaced, destroyed or closed and copies of the Quran were destroyed along with temples, churches, Buddhist and Daoist monasteries and cemeteries by the Red Guards.[120][page needed] In 1975, in what would be known as the Shadian incident, there was a uprising among Hui in what was the only large scale ethnic rebellion during the Cultural Revolution.[121] In suppressing the rebellion, the PLA killed 1,600 Hui.[121] Following the fall of the Gang of Four, apologies and reparations were made.[122] During that time, the government also constantly accused Muslims and other religious groups of holding "superstitious beliefs" and promoting "anti-socialist trends".[123] The government began to relax its policies towards Muslims in 1978.[124]

Restrictions on religious freedoms imposed by the government can vary from region to region. In 1989, China banned a book titled "Xing Fengsu" ("Sexual Customs") which insulted Islam and placed its authors under arrest after protests in Lanzhou and Beijing by Chinese Hui Muslims, during which the Chinese police provided protection to the Hui Muslim protestors and the Chinese government organized public burnings of the book.[125] In 2007, anticipating the coming "Year of the Pig" in the Chinese calendar, depictions of pigs were banned from CCTV "to avoid conflicts with Muslim minorities".[126] This is believed to refer to China's population of 20 million Muslims (to whom pigs are considered "unclean"). Hui Muslims enjoy such freedoms, practising their religion, building Mosques at which their children attend, while Uyghurs in Xinjiang experienced strict controls.[127]

Since the 1980s, Islamic private schools (Sino-Arabic schools (中阿學校)) have been supported and permitted by the Chinese government among Muslim areas, only specifically excluding Xinjiang from allowing these schools because of separatist sentiment there.[128][129][130][131] After secondary education is completed, Hui students are permitted to embark on religious studies under an Imam.[132][133][134]

Hui Muslims who are employed by the state are allowed to fast during Ramadan unlike Uyghurs in the same positions, the number of Huí going on Hajj was reported to be expanding in 2014 and Hui women are allowed to wear veils, while Uyghur women are discouraged from wearing them. Uyghurs find it difficult to get passports to go on Hajj.[135][136]

By 2013, repression of Uyghurs extended to disappearing dissidents and imposing life imprisonment sentences on academics for promoting Uyghur social interactions.[137]

In March 2014, the Chinese media estimated that there were around 300 Chinese Muslims active in ISIS territories.[138][139] Moving forward, the Chinese government stated in May 2015 that it would not tolerate any form of terrorism and would work to “combat terrorist forces, including ETIM, [to] safeguard global peace, security and stability."[140]

In the five years to 2017, a 306 per cent increase in criminal arrests was seen in Xinjiang and the arrests there accounted for 21 per cent of the national total, despite the region contributing just 1.5 per cent of the population. The increase was seen as driven by the government's "Strike Hard" campaign. In 2017, driven by a 92 percent in security spending there that year, an estimated 227,882 criminal arrests were made in Xinjiang.[141][142]

In August 2018, the authorities were vigorously pursuing the suppression of mosques, including their widespread destruction,[143] over Muslim protests.[144]

Also at that time, the growing of long beards and the wearing veils or Islamic robes, were banned. All vehicle owners were required to install GPS tracking devices.[142]

The Associated Press also reported in late November that Uighur families were required to allow local government officials to live in their homes as "relatives" in a "Pair Up and Become Family" campaign. While the official was living in a home, the residents were closely watched and not allowed to pray or wear religious clothing. Authorities said that the program was voluntary but Muslims who were interviewed by AP expressed concern that refusal to cooperate would lead to serious repercussions.[145]

Re-education camps

In May 2018, it was reported that hundreds of thousands of Muslims were being detained in massive extra-judicial internment camps in Western Xinjiang.[146] These were called "re-education" camps and later, "vocational training centres" by the government, intended for the "rehabilitation and redemption" to combat terrorism and religious extremism.[147][141][148]

The camps have been reportedly described as "Orwellian"[142] and some Western journalists have made comparisons to Nazi concentration camps.[149][150]

On 31 August 2018, the United Nations committee called on the Chinese government to "end the practice of detention without lawful charge, trial and conviction", to release the detained persons, to provide specifics as to the number of interred individuals and the reasons for their detention and to investigate the allegations of "racial, ethnic and ethno-religious profiling". A BBC report quoted an unnamed Chinese official as saying that "Uighurs enjoyed full rights" but also admitting that "those deceived by religious extremism... shall be assisted by resettlement and re-education".[151] The Global Times also responded that the controls in Xinjiang were "intense", but not permanent.[152] On 17 June 2020, President Donald Trump signed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act,[153] which authorizes the imposition of U.S. sanctions against Chinese government officials responsible for re-education camps.[154]

Sectarian tensions

Hui-Uyghur tension

Tensions between Hui Muslims and Uyghurs arise because Hui troops and officials often dominated the Uyghurs in the past, and crushed the Uyghurs' revolts.[155] Xinjiang's Hui population increased by over 520 percent between 1940 and 1982, an average annual growth of 4.4 percent, while the Uyghur population only grew at 1.7 percent. This dramatic increase in Hui population led inevitably to significant tensions between the Hui and Uyghur populations. Many Hui Muslim civilians were killed by Uyghur rebellion troops in 1933 known as the Kizil massacre.[156] During the 2009 rioting in Xinjiang that killed around 200 people, “Kill the Han, kill the Hui.” is a common cry spread across social media among Uyghur extremists.[157] Some Uyghurs in Kashgar remember that the Hui army at the Battle of Kashgar (1934) massacred 2,000 to 8,000 Uyghurs, which causes tension as more Hui moved into Kashgar from other parts of China.[158] Some Hui criticize Uyghur separatism and generally do not want to get involved in conflict in other countries.[159] Hui and Uyghur live separately, attending different mosques.[160]

The Uyghur militant organization East Turkestan Islamic Movement's magazine Islamic Turkistan has accused the Chinese "Muslim Brotherhood" (the Yihewani) of being responsible for the moderation of Hui Muslims and the lack of Hui joining jihadist groups in addition to blaming other things for the lack of Hui Jihadists, such as the fact that for more than 300 years Hui and Uyghurs have been enemies of each other, no separatist Islamist organizations among the Hui, the fact that the Hui view China as their home, and the fact that the "infidel Chinese" language is the language of the Hui.[161][162]

Hui Muslim drug dealers are accused by Uyghur Muslims of pushing heroin on Uyghurs.[163] Heroin has been vended by Hui dealers.[164] There is a typecast image in the public eye of heroin being the province of Hui dealers.[165] Hui have been involved in the Golden Triangle drug area.[166]

Hui sects

There have been many occurrences of violent sectarian fighting between different Hui sects. Sectarian fighting between Hui sects led to the Jahriyya rebellion in the 1780s and the 1895 revolt. After a hiatus after the People's Republic of China came to power, sectarian in fighting resumed in the 1990s in Ningxia between different sects. Several sects refuse to intermarry with each other. One Sufi sect circulated an anti-Salafi pamphlet in Arabic. Salafi movement, which is increasing in China due to fund from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, both are major backers of Salafism, had facilitated a number of Chinese Salafi mosques. Some Hui Salafists have joined Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Tibetan Muslims

In Tibet, the majority of Muslims are Hui people. Hatred between Tibetans and Muslims stems from events during the Muslim warlord Ma Bufang's rule in Qinghai such as Ngolok rebellions (1917–49) and the Sino-Tibetan War, but in 1949 the Communists put an end to the violence between Tibetans and Muslims, however, new Tibetan-Muslim violence broke out after China engaged in liberalization. Riots broke out between Muslims and Tibetans over incidents such as bones in soups and prices of balloons and Tibetans accused Muslims of being cannibals who cooked humans in their soup and of contaminating food with urine. Tibetans attacked Muslim restaurants. Fires set by Tibetans which burned the apartments and shops of Muslims resulted in Muslim families being killed and wounded in the 2008 mid-March riots. Due to Tibetan violence against Muslims, the traditional Islamic white caps have not been worn by many Muslims. Scarfs were removed and replaced with hairnets by Muslim women in order to hide. Muslims prayed in secret at home when in August 2008 the Tibetans burned the Mosque. The repression of Tibetan separatism by the Chinese government is supported by Hui Muslims.[167] In addition, Chinese-speaking Hui have problems with Tibetan Hui (the Tibetan-speaking Kache minority of Muslims).[168]

The main Mosque in Lhasa was burned down by Tibetans and Chinese Hui Muslims were violently assaulted by Tibetan rioters in the 2008 Tibetan unrest.[169] Tibetan exiles and foreign scholars alike ignore this and do not talk about sectarian violence between Tibetan Buddhists and Muslims.[170] The majority of Tibetans viewed the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11 positively and it had the effect of galvanizing anti-Muslim attitudes among Tibetans and resulted in an anti-Muslim boycott against Muslim owned businesses.[170]:17 Tibetan Buddhists propagate a false libel that Muslims cremate their Imams and use the ashes to convert Tibetans to Islam by making Tibetans inhale the ashes, even though the Tibetans seem to be aware that Muslims practice burial and not cremation since they frequently clash against proposed Muslim cemeteries in their area.[170]:19

Since the Chinese government supports and backs up the Hui Muslims, the Tibetans deliberately attack the Hui Muslims as a way to demonstrate anti-government sentiment and because they have a background of sectarian violence against each other since Ma Bufang's rule due to their separate religions and ethnicity and Tibetans resent Hui economic domination.[171]


Ethnic groups

Muslim, Bonan children

Muslims live in every region in China.[6] The highest concentrations are found in the northwest provinces of Xinjiang, Gansu and Ningxia, with significant populations also found throughout Yunnan Province in Southwest China and Henan Province in Central China.[6] Of China's 55 officially recognized minority peoples, ten groups are predominantly Muslim. The largest groups in descending order are Hui (9.8 million in year 2000 census or 48% of the officially tabulated number of Muslims), Uyghur (8.4 million, 41%), Kazakh (1.25 million, 6.1%), Dongxiang (514,000, 2.5%), Kyrgyz (144,000), Uzbeks (125,000), Salar (105,000), Tajik (41,000), Bonan (17,000) and Tatar (5,000).[6] However, individual members of traditionally Muslim groups may profess other religions or none at all. Additionally, Tibetan Muslims are officially classified along with the Tibetan people. Muslims live predominantly in the areas that border Central Asia, Tibet and Mongolia, i.e. Xinjiang, Ningxia, Gansu and Qinghai, which is known as the "Quran Belt".[172]

Uyghur Muslims in a livestock market in Kashgar.


The East Asian O3-M122 Y chromosome Haplogroup is found in large quantities in other Muslims close to the Hui like Dongxiang, Bo'an and Salar. The majority of Tibeto-Burmans, Han Chinese and Ningxia and Liaoning Hui share paternal Y chromosomes of East Asian origin which are unrelated to Middle Easterners and Europeans. In contrast to distant Middle Eastern and Europeans whom the Muslims of China are not related to, East Asians, Han Chinese and most of the Hui and Dongxiang of Linxia share more genes with each other. This indicates that native East Asian populations converted to Islam and were culturally assimilated to these ethnicities and that Chinese Muslim populations are mostly not descendants of foreigners as claimed by some accounts while only a small minority of them are.[173]

Number of Muslims in China

99 names of Allah, in Chinese Sini

A 2009 study done by the Pew Research Center concluded there are 21,667,000 Muslims in China, accounting for 1.6% of the total population.[14][174] According to the CIA World Factbook, about 1–2% of the total population in China are Muslims.[175] The 2000 census counts imply that there may be up to 20 million Muslims in China. According to the textbook, “Religions in the Modern World”, it states that the “numbers of followers of any one tradition are difficult to estimate and must in China as everywhere else rely on statistics compiled by the largest institutions, either those of the state – which tend to underestimate – or those of the religious institutions themselves – which tend to overestimate. If we include all the population of those designated ‘national’ minorities with an Islamic heritage in the territory of China, then we can conclude that there are some 20 million Muslims in the People’s Republic of China.[176][177] According to SARA there are approximately 36,000 Islamic places of worship, more than 45,000 imams, and 10 Islamic schools in the country.[178] Within the next two decades from 2011, Pew projects a slowing down of the Muslim population growth in China compared to previous years, with Muslim women in China having a 1.7 fertility rate.[179] Many Hui Muslims voluntarily limit themselves to one child in China since their Imams preach to them about the benefits of population control, while the number of children Hui in different areas are allowed to have varies between one and three children.[180] Chinese family planning policy allows minorities including Muslims to have up to two children in urban areas and three to four children in rural areas.

An early historical estimate of the Muslim population of the then Qing Empire belongs to the Christian missionary Marshall Broomhall. In his book, published in 1910, he produced estimates for each province, based on the reports of missionaries working there, who had counted mosques, talked to mullahs, etc. Broomhall admits the inadequacy of the data for Xinjiang, estimating the Muslim population of Xinjiang (i.e., virtually the entire population of the province at the time) in the range from 1,000,000 (based on the total population number of 1,200,000 in the contemporary Statesman's Yearbook) to 2,400,000 (2 million "Turki", 200,000 "Hasak" and 200,000 "Tungan", as per George Hunter). He uses the estimates of 2,000,000 to 3,500,000 for Gansu (which then also included today's Ningxia and parts of Qinghai), 500,000 to 1,000,000 for Zhili (i.e., Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei), 300,000 to 1,000,000 for Yunnan and smaller numbers for other provinces, down to 1,000 in Fujian. For Mongolia (then, part of the Qing Empire) he takes an arbitrary range of 50,000 to 100,000.[181] Summing up, he arrives to the grand total of 4,727,000 to 9,821,000 Muslims throughout the Qing Empire of its last years, i.e. just over 1–2% of the entire country's estimated population of 426,045,305.[182][183][184] The 1920 edition of New International Yearbook: A Compendium of the World's Progress gave the number "between 5,000,000 and 10,000,000" as the total number of Muslims in the Republic of China.[185]

Religious practices

Islamic education in China

Chinese Muslim students

In the two decades up to 2006, a wide range of Islamic educational opportunities were developed to meet the needs of China's Muslim population. In addition to mosque schools, government Islamic colleges and independent Islamic colleges, more students went overseas to continue their studies at international Islamic universities in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Pakistan and Malaysia.[6] Qīngzhēn (清真) is the Chinese term for certain Islamic institutions. Its literal meaning is "pure truth."

Muslim groups

The vast majority of China's Muslims are Sunni Muslims. A notable feature of some Muslim communities in China is the presence of female imams.[186][187] Islamic scholar Ma Tong recorded that the 6,781,500 Hui in China predominately followed the Orthodox form of Islam (58.2% were Gedimu, a non-Sufi mainstream tradition that opposed unorthodoxy and religious innovation), mainly adhering to the Hanafi Madh'hab. However a large minority of Hui are members of Sufi groups. According to Tong, 21% Yihewani, 10.9% Jahriyya, 7.2% Khuffiya, 1.4% Qadariyya and 0.7% Kubrawiyya.[188] Shia Chinese Muslims are mostly Ismailis, including Tajiks of the Tashkurgan and Sarikul areas of Xinjiang.

Chinese Muslims and the Hajj

It is known that Admiral Zheng He (1371–1435) and his Muslim crews had made the journey to Mecca and performed the Hajj during one of the former's voyages to the western ocean between 1401–1433.[189] Other Chinese Muslims may have made the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in the following centuries; however, there is little information on this. General Ma Lin made a Hajj to Mecca.[190] General Ma Fuxiang along with Ma Linyi sponsored Imam Wang Jingzhai when he went on hajj to Mecca in 1921.[191] Yihewani Imam Hu Songshan went on Hajj in 1925.[192] Briefly during the Cultural Revolution, Chinese Muslims were not allowed to attend the Hajj and only did so through Pakistan, but this policy was reversed in 1979. Chinese Muslims now attend the Hajj in large numbers, typically in organized groups, with a record 10,700 Chinese Muslim pilgrims from all over the country making the Hajj in 2007.[193]

Representative bodies

Islamic Association of China

Headquarters of the Islamic Association of China in Beijing

Established by the government, the Islamic Association of China claims to represent Chinese Muslims nationwide. At its inaugural meeting on May 11, 1953, in Beijing, representatives from 10 nationalities of the People's Republic of China were in attendance. The association was to be run by 16 Islamic religious leaders charged with making "a correct and authoritative interpretation" of Islamic creed and canon. Its brief is to compile and spread inspirational speeches and help imams "improve" themselves, and vet sermons made by clerics around the country.

Some examples of the religious concessions granted to Muslims are:

Culture and heritage

The Niujie Mosque in Beijing

Although contacts and previous conquests have occurred before, the Mongol conquest of the greater part of Eurasia in the 13th century permanently brought the extensive cultural traditions of China, central Asia and western Asia into a single empire, albeit one of separate khanates, for the first time in history. The intimate interaction that resulted is evident in the legacy of both traditions. In China, Islam influenced technology, sciences, philosophy and the arts. For example, the Chinese adopted much Islamic medical knowledge such as wound healing and urinalysis. However, the Chinese were not the only ones to benefit from the cultural exchanges of the Silk Road. Islam showed many influences from buddhist China in their new techniques in art, especially when humans began to be depicted in paintings which was thought to be forbidden in Islam.[195] In terms of material culture, one finds decorative motifs from central Asian Islamic architecture and calligraphy and the marked halal impact on northern Chinese cuisine.

Taking the Mongol Eurasian empire as a point of departure, the ethnogenesis of the Hui, or Sinophone Muslims, can also be charted through the emergence of distinctly Chinese Muslim traditions in architecture, food, epigraphy and Islamic written culture. This multifaceted cultural heritage continues to the present day.[196]


Muslims have often filled military positions, and many Muslims have joined the Chinese army.[197] Muslims served extensively in the Chinese military, as both officials and soldiers. It was said that the Muslim Dongxiang and Salar were given to "eating rations", a reference to military service.[198]

Islamic architecture in China

In Chinese, a mosque is called qīngzhēn sì (清真寺) or "pure truth temple." The Huaisheng Mosque and Great Mosque of Xi'an (first established during the Tang era) and the Great Southern Mosque in Jinan, whose current buildings date from the Ming Dynasty, do not replicate many of the features often associated with traditional mosques. Instead, they follow traditional Chinese architecture. Mosques in western China incorporate more of the elements seen in mosques in other parts of the world. Western Chinese mosques were more likely to incorporate minarets and domes while eastern Chinese mosques were more likely to look like pagodas.[199]

An important feature in Chinese architecture is its emphasis on symmetry, which connotes a sense of grandeur; this applies to everything from palaces to mosques. One notable exception is in the design of gardens, which tends to be as asymmetrical as possible. Like Chinese scroll paintings, the principle underlying the garden's composition is to create enduring flow; to let the patron wander and enjoy the garden without prescription, as in nature herself.

On the foothills of Mount Lingshan are the tombs of two of the four companions that Muhammad sent eastwards to preach Islam. Known as the "Holy Tombs," they house the companions Sa-Ke-Zu and Wu-Ko-Shun—their Chinese names, of course. The other two companions went to Guangzhou and Yangzhou.[27]

Chinese buildings may be built with bricks, but wooden structures are the most common; these are more capable of withstanding earthquakes, but are vulnerable to fire. The roof of a typical Chinese building is curved; there are strict classifications of gable types, comparable with the classical orders of European columns.

As in all regions the Chinese Islamic architecture reflects the local architecture in its style. China is renowned for its beautiful mosques, which resemble temples. However, in western China the mosques resemble those of the middle east, with tall, slender minarets, curvy arches and dome shaped roofs. In northwest China where the Chinese Hui have built their mosques, there is a combination of east and west. The mosques have flared Chinese-style roofs set in walled courtyards entered through archways with miniature domes and minarets.[199] The first mosque was the Great Mosque of Xian or the Xian Mosque, which was created in the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century.[200]

Ningxia officials notiffed on 3 August 2018 that the Weizhou Grand Mosque will be forcibly demolished on Friday because it had not received the proper permits before construction.[201][202][203] Officials in the town were saying the mosque had not been given proper building permits, because it is built in a Middle Eastern style and include numerous domes and minarets.[201][202] The residents of Weizhou were alarmed each other by social media and finally stopped the mosque destruction by public demonstrations.[202]

Halal food in China

A halal butcher shop at Huxi Mosque in Shanghai

Halal food has a long history in China. The arrival of Arabian and Persian merchants during the Tang and Song dynasties saw the introduction of the Muslim diet. Chinese Muslim cuisine adheres strictly to the Islamic dietary rules with mutton and lamb being the predominant ingredient. The advantage of Muslim cuisine in China is that it has inherited the diverse cooking methods of Chinese cuisine for example, braising, roasting, steaming, stewing and many more. Due to China's multicultural background Muslim cuisine retains its own style and characteristics according to regions.[204]

Due to the large Muslim population in Western China, many Chinese restaurants cater to Muslims or cater to the general public but are run by Muslims. In most major cities in China, there are small Islamic restaurants or food stalls typically run by migrants from Western China (e.g., Uyghurs), which offer inexpensive noodle soup. Lamb and mutton dishes are more commonly available than in other Chinese restaurants, due to the greater prevalence of these meats in the cuisine of western Chinese regions. Commercially prepared food can be certified Halal by approved agencies.[205] In Chinese, halal is called qīngzhēncài (清真菜) or "pure truth food." Beef and lamb slaughtered according to Islamic rituals is also commonly available in public markets, especially in North China. Such meat is sold by Muslim butchers, who operate independent stalls next to non-Muslim butchers.

In October 2018, the government launched an official anti-halal policy, urging officials to suppress the "pan-halal tendency", seen as an encroachment by religion into secular life and a source of religious extremism.[206]



Sini-style Arabic calligraphy of the first Shahada (La 'ilāha 'illā Allāh) at the Great Mosque of Xi'an

Sini is a Chinese Islamic calligraphic form for the Arabic script. It can refer to any type of Chinese Islamic calligraphy, but is commonly used to refer to one with thick and tapered effects, much like Chinese calligraphy. It is used extensively in mosques in Eastern China and to a lesser extent in Gansu, Ningxia and Shaanxi. A famous Sini calligrapher is Hajji Noor Deen Mi Guangjiang.


A Chinese-Arabic-Xiaoerjing dictionary from the early days of the People's Republic of China

Xiao'erjing (also Xiao'erjin or Xiaojing) is the practice of writing Sinitic languages such as Mandarin (especially the Lanyin, Zhongyuan and Northeastern dialects) or the Dungan language in the Arabic script. It is used on occasion by many ethnic minorities who adhere to the Islamic faith in China (mostly the Hui, but also the Dongxiang and the Salar) and formerly by their Dungan descendants in Central Asia.

Martial arts

There is a long history of Muslim development and participation at the highest level of Chinese wushu. The Hui started and adapted many of the styles of wushu such as bajiquan, piguazhang and liuhequan. There were specific areas that were known to be centers of Muslim wushu, such as Cang County in Hebei Province. These traditional Hui martial arts were very distinct from the Turkic styles practiced in Xinjiang.[207]


The Han Kitab was a collection of Chinese Islamic texts written by Chinese Muslim which synthesized Islam and Confucianism. It was written in the early 18th century during the Qing dynasty. Han is Chinese for Chinese and kitab (ketabu in Chinese) is Arabic for book.[208] Liu Zhi wrote his Han Kitab in Nanjing in the early 18th century. The works of Wu Sunqie, Zhang Zhong and Wang Daiyu were also included in the Han Kitab.[209]

The Han Kitab was widely read and approved of by later Chinese Muslims such as Ma Qixi, Ma Fuxiang and Hu Songshan. They believed that Islam could be understood through Confucianism.


A lot of Chinese students including male and females join International Islamic University, Islamabad to gain Islamic knowledge. For some Muslim groups in China, such as the Hui and Salar minorities, coeducation is frowned upon; for some groups such as Uyghurs, it is not.[210]

Women imams

With the exception of China, the world has very few mosques directed by women.[211] China is alone with having the position of Imam held by women.[212]

Reeducation camps and Restricting religious freedom

The Xinjiang re-education camps are officially called "Vocational Education and Training Centers" by the Chinese government.[213] The re-education camps have been operated by the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Regional government since 2014. However, the efforts of the camps strongly intensified after a change of head for the region. The UN Human Rights Counsel has alleged that China has been actively harvesting organs from the prisoners of their re-education camps and selling them on the global market[214][215]. Alongside the Uyghurs, other Muslim minorities have also been reported to be held in these re-education camps. As of 2019, 23 nations in the United Nations have signed a letter condemning China for the camps and asking them to close them.[216]

In October 2018, the BBC News published an investigative exposé claiming based on satellite imagery and testimony that hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are being held without trial in internment camps in Xinjiang.[136] On the other hand, the United States Department of Defense believes that around 1 million to 3 million people have been detained and put in the re-education camps.[217] Some sources quoted in the article say “As far as I know, the Chinese government wants to delete Uighur identity from the world.”[136][218] The New York Times suggests that China has been successful in keeping countries quiet about the camps in Xinjiang due to its diplomatic and economic power, but when countries do decide to criticize the country, they do so in groups in hopes of lessening punishments from China.[219].

On 28 April 2020, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issued “International Religious Freedom Annual Report 2020” . The Report states that “Individuals have been sent to the camps for wearing long beards, refusing alcohol, or other behaviors authorities deem to be signs of “religious extremism.” Former detainees report that they suffered torture, rape, sterilization, and other abuses. In addition, nearly half a million Muslim children have been separated from their families and placed in boarding schools. During 2019, the camps increasingly transitioned from reeducation to forced labor as detainees were forced to work in cotton and textile factories. Outside the camps, the government continued to deploy officials to live with Muslim families and to report on any signs of “extremist” religious behavior. Meanwhile, authorities in Xinjiang and other parts of China have destroyed or damaged thousands of mosques and removed Arabic-language signs from Muslim businesses. ”[220]

Famous Muslims in China



Scholars and writers


Martial arts


See also


  1. ^ Currently, "Hui" in Chinese refers to both Islamic and ethnic Hui Chinese. Previously, however, "Hui" referred to Islam and all Chinese Muslims, particularly ethnic Hui and Uyghurs.


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